History - The early years
In 1744 the owners of a coffee house in Threadneedle Street in London changed its name from the Virginia and Maryland to Virginia and Baltick to reflect the trade of the regulars who met there to make arrangements and draw up agreements for the transportation of goods by sailing ship. Just as the opening of Edward Lloyd's coffee house in Tower Street was the birth of Lloyd's of London, so the opening of the Virginia and Baltick Coffee House can be said to be the birth of the Baltic Exchange.
The coffee house of 1744 was an open house with no members, but the common interest was in the trade of tallows, oils, flax, hemp and seeds from the Baltic states.
As Europe's population grew rapidly throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and London became the commercial heart of the expanding British Empire, so began the growth of the shipping industry centred around the Virginia and Baltick.
The informal arrangements of the original coffee house were not robust enough to deal with the wild speculations in commodities so prevalent at the time and in 1823 a committee was formed with the power to formulate rules and regulations for the admission of members. 23 merchants, tallow chandlers, soap makers and brokers closed ranks.
The committee decided that one room - the Subscription Room - would be open only to those willing to pay for the privilege and the number of subscribers limited to three hundred. The framework had been laid for what would one day become the Baltic Exchange, the most important market for shipping in the world.
The Subscription Room opened on 1 May 1823 and within the first few weeks subscribers had introduced visitors from Paris, Stockholm, St Petersburg, Marseilles, Amsterdam, the Canaries, Sydney, Antwerp, Gibraltar, Madrid, Hamburg, Madeira and Jamaica. The Baltic was off to a good international start.
Rules and regulations of the Baltic house agreed to at a General Meeting of the Subscribers held on Tuesday 22 April 1823, AH Thompson, Esqr., in the Chair.
That the name of the establishment to be the Baltic Coffee House
That the number of subscribers do not exceed three hundred (reckoning firms as single subscribers) without the consent of a general meeting and further that the number of subscriptions from the Stock Exchange do not exceed six.
That new subscribers are to be admitted only on the recommendation of six subscribers, which recommendation is to be approved by the Committee.
That the subscription be as follows, viz.: Four guineas per annum for an individual, six guineas for firms consisting of two persons, eight guineas for firms consisting of more than two persons (partners not resident in London or the neighbourhood not to be counted as belonging to firms), and that the allowance for the waiter shall be one guinea per annum for individuals and in the same proportion for firms, viz., one guinea and a half per annum for firms of two persons, two guineas per annum for firms of more than two persons, and that no additional renumeration be given to the waiters in the room, and that there be at least four waiters provided.
That the room be opened on the first day of May, 1823, and that the subscriptions be paid for one year in advance - within one month of that time.
That a dining and a sale room be provided for the accommodation of the subscribers and the public, and that wine, tea, coffee, chocolate and sandwiches be furnished in the coffee room.
That gentlemen out of business, and resident more than 20 miles from London, or in business and resident more than 50 miles from London, be admitted on introduction by a member of the Committee who shall write the name of the visitor and his place of abode in a book to be kept for that purpose and who must re-insert the name every week.
That there be only one door for admission.
That the Committee shall call a general meeting of the subscribers on a requisistion being presented to them stating the object for which the meeting is to be called, and signed by at least 50 subscribers, but the Committee to have at all times the power of calling general meetings.
That a meeting of the Committee be held on the first and third Tuesday in every month at two o'clock precisely, and that five members of the Committee form a quorum.
That a book is to be kept by the Secretary in which is to be entered the rules and regulations of the establishment - together with the names of the Committee and subscribers.